The current Covid-19 pandemic is dangerous because it is capable of triggering a lot of additional complications, especially if the patient has other health conditions.
One such condition that’s both especially dangerous and prevalent in the U.S. is diabetes. Around 30 million Americans have type 2 diabetes and a quarter of them are over 65 years old.
“One issue is you have the confounding factor of age. As people age, type II diabetes becomes more and more prevalent,” said endocrinologist Dr. Mark Snyder. “It’s hard to tease out all of these issues. Aging is also a risk factor for complications with COVID-19.”
Diabetes is an especially dangerous disease even just on its own. It’s a disease of the pancreas and it impacts the body’s ability to process blood glucose. When diabetes goes untreated – as it is for a lot of Americans who can’t afford full insulin treatments even before the Covid-19 crisis, let alone now – the high blood sugar levels it causes can lead to a host of other complications such as a stroke, kidney failure, heart disease, and others.
All this is further complicated by the damage caused by Covid-19.
“Diabetes and high glucose levels are associated with increased complications, respiratory failure, and mortality in hospitalized patients with COVID-19,” the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists has stated on its website.
The risk of such complications is further exemplified by the data from the 2,112 deaths of U.S. citizens from Covid-19 through March 28. 10,9% of them had diabetes and it was the most frequent underlying condition among the victims. Experts also warn that this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of research as there’s still a lot we don’t know.
“There is not enough data to show whether people with diabetes are more likely to get COVID-19 than the general population,” the American Diabetes Association says. “The problem people with diabetes face is primarily a problem with worse outcomes, not greater chance of contracting the virus.”
This data is supported by reports from China that the ADA has also gone through, which shows that people with diabetes are at a much higher risk of health complications due to Covid-19.
Such complications are also why diabetics have always been encouraged by doctors to get flu shots every year as even just the flu is capable of leading to dangerous outcomes.
“People with high blood sugar from diabetes can be more severely affected by common infections, such as influenza and pneumonia,” the University of Michigan recommended. “This is why immunizations for influenza (the flu) and pneumococcal disease are recommended for people who have diabetes.”
Dr. Mark Snyder says that “If you do get one of these common illnesses, your diabetes is going to be messed up and you’re likely going to end up in the hospital.”
The biggest danger for diabetics is a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) – this is what happens when the body’s cells don’t receive enough glucose and it can lead to coma or even death.
“DKA can make it challenging to manage your fluid intake and electrolyte levels — which is important in managing sepsis. Sepsis and septic shock are some of the more serious complications that some people with COVID-19 have experienced.”